Engeromic Recognitions

The Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies announces the third in the series of ‘Engeromic Recognitions’:

Professors and Pioneers: The Early Study of Modern Languages at the University of Copenhagen

Professorer og pionerer: Sprogstudiernes tidlige historie på København Universitet

A Symposium in Honour of George Stephens (1813-1895)


13.15   WELCOME ADDRESS by Jørn Boisen

13.20   Lene Waage Petersen: ‘Om tidlige italienske studier ved KU’

13.45   John Kuhlman Madsen: ‘Om tidlige spanske studier ved KU’

14.10   John Pedersen: ‘Franskfagets historie og historien i franskfaget’

14.35   Ditlev Tamm: ‘Ancients and Moderns: Philology at the University of
           Copenhagen in the 19th Century’

15.00   Coffee Break

           “Av Stephens lærte jeg heller ikke noget”: George Stephens and
           “Scando-Anglic” Studies in Nineteenth-Century Cheapinghaven’

16.45   Charles Lock: Closing Words

17.00   RECEPTION in the Library of the Faculty of Humanities to be opened by Her
           Excellency the British Ambassador to Denmark, Vivien Life

17.30   CONCERT by Graabrødre Kammerkor: ‘Old Songs in New Tongues’


George Stephens (1813-1895) was the first Professor of English at the University of Copenhagen, and a pioneering scholar in the interpretation and understanding of runes. After studying at University College London he moved to Stockholm where he pursued his passion for Nordic antiquities while earning his living as a teacher of English; in 1839 he published the first complete translation of an Icelandic saga into English, and in 1841 he issued an English-Swedish dictionary. In 1851 Stephens moved to Copenhagen as lektor in English Language and Literature; the Professorship was created for him in 1855, and Stephens remained in that post until he retired, aged eighty, in 1893. It was in Copenhagen that he undertook his four-volume study of runes, a work that remained unsurpassed for a hundred years and is still consulted. Among his students was Otto Jespersen, who succeeded Stephens as Professor of English in 1893.

This event takes place two days before the bicentenary of Stephens's birth on 13 December 1813. The anniversary gives us an occasion to honour the contribution made to the University of Copenhagen, and to scholarship and higher education in Denmark, by Stephens and by his colleagues in the other modern languages.

The George Stephens Bicentenary Lecture will be given by Andrew Wawn, Professor Emeritus of Anglo-Icelandic Literature at the University of Leeds, and author of The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in Victorian Britain (2000), in which Stephens is a central figure. 


There will be an exhibition dedicated to George Stephens in the Library of the Faculty of Humanities. Stephens was prolific in the range and variety of his publications, from scholarly work on runes and problems of philology and archaeology to more creative work in translation, poetry and drama: a selection from the holdings of the Royal Library will be on display together with portraits and various materials loaned from the archives of St Alban's, the English church in Copenhagen whose founding was largely due to Stephens. We are grateful to both institutions for their support and generosity.

The exhibition will be formally opened at the Reception by Her Excellency the British Ambassador to Denmark, Vivien Life.


 At the Reception  the highly-regarded Copenhagen choir, Graabrødre Kammerkor, will give a short concert of early songs in a number of European vernaculars: ‘Old Songs in New Tongues’.